South Africa - Cape Town - 13 February 2020 - Wesley Diphoko, Editor of Fast Company. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
South Africa - Cape Town - 13 February 2020 - Wesley Diphoko, Editor of Fast Company. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Covid-19: Chance to up the tech game

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Mar 20, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - For many years, technologists have been dreaming of a completely digital world. 

Some thought that such a world was too far from becoming a reality. Coronavirus is forcing us to create a completely digital world faster than we thought.

In such a world, robots will be roaming the streets to execute human commands such as online deliveries for food, medicines, clothing and other essential items for living.

In a tech-driven world, human beings would own fewer goods such as furniture and other items. These items would be ordered only when they were necessary, and be delivered by robots.

In health, tech solutions have been developed to enable people to access health services without leaving their homes. This has always been seen as a service that would be used by the elderly. It now seems most people may need such a service to avoid the spread of diseases and to complement health professionals who are in short supply.

This is also true of education, online education solutions have existed for years to enable better access to education. Judging by the demands for traditional schools, it’s clear that online education has not yet reached a point where it’s considered a norm.

It has always been known that to address the shortage of space and educators in traditional institutions of higher learning online education can be a viable solution. To avoid the potential for the disease to spread in education institutions, online education is one of the ideal alternatives.

Virtual reality technology takes us to places for virtual experiences, making it possible to attend virtual events and virtual locations while sitting in the comfort of our homes.

We’ve never had the opportunity to test the digital world theory. Coronavirus is creating an opportunity to see what it would take to use digital tools and work from home, study online and let robots do the rest. In China the coronavirus epidemic is forcing millions of white-collar workers to get used to business outside the office.

The work-from-home policies have led to a surge in downloads for WeChat Work, DingTalk, and Lark - three workplace chat apps operated by Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance, respectively.

According to data from research firm App Annie, both DingTalk and Lark saw downloads across China’s app stores surge more than 350percent during Chinese New Year week compared to one week prior.

In South Africa alone companies have shifted towards virtual meetings. During this week we’ve witnessed the rise of virtual meetings via Skype, Microsoft teams, Google Hangout and Zoom. More and more people have begun to use online collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello and others.

The adoption of digital tools as a way of life can only be good for society under the current circumstances. It will, however, introduce digital risks as well. The current health crisis should never be wasted. It should be used to create a better society driven by technology.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of Fast Company (SA). @WesleyDiphoko, [email protected]

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